6:10 PM -- It's the end of WorldGate Communications Inc. as we know it, and I doubt many many folks still associated with the company are feeling fine.
The once-promising startup that helped to define the hype that was (still is?) interactive television in the late 1990s, appears to be deader than dead.
The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy after defaulting on its $3.6 million debt to WGI Investor LLC, its largest shareholder, reports PhillyBurbs.com, noting that WorldGate is carrying a debt load of as much as $50 million to go along with just $500,000 in total assets.
It's a sad end to a company that was founded in 1995 by Hal Krisbergh, a high-energy cable vet and former Motorola Inc. and General Instrument Corp. executive who would always have a spare moment to tell you about how his company would come out on top as the worlds of TV and the Web started to collide.
Krisbergh, who left WorldGate for good in 2009, liked to talk about the promise of "Channel Hyperlinking," whereby consumers watching a TV show could be linked to associated websites. While that may sound lamer than E.T. on the Atari 2600, just remember that this was 17 years ago, when Steve Perlman was pitching WebTV Networks Inc. as the greatest thing to hit the Web since AltaVista. (See WorldGate CEO Resigns .)
WorldGate rode the ITV wave for what it was worth before exiting that business and selling those assets to TVGateway LLC, an interactive program guide consortium run by Comcast Corp., Cox Communications Inc., Charter Communications Inc., and what was still Adelphia Communications. In 2003, WorldGate completed its 180 by making and selling the iconic (though proprietary and super-expensive) "Ojo" videophone, which was rendered obsolete as a consumer product as services like Skype came on the scene.
But that original consumer strategy looked promising for, oh, ten minutes. Motorola did come on as exclusive reseller, tout the Ojo at the Consumer Electronics Show, and even managed to get the Ojo into some episodes of 24... before it cut bait and scuttled the partnership in April 2006. WorldGate later focused on selling its devices to the hearing-impaired and eventually sold out to its biggest customer. (See WorldGate Winding Down and ACN Takes Control of WorldGate.)
But word of Chapter 7 dumps the last heap of sand on the corpse that was WorldGate. When it came to ITV, it was perhaps ahead of its time. But in some ways, one might also argue that ITV's still waiting for its time to arrive. (See Cable's Canoe Sinks Interactive Ad Business .)
— Jeff Baumgartner, Site Editor, Light Reading Cable